4th Sunday after Pentecost
June 10, 2018
Pastor Tom Schulz
1st Corinthians 5:1-10
Dear Friends in Christ,
If you like to go camping, the next few weeks may not be much fun. Some campgrounds are closed. Others have restrictions that prevent you from having a campfire. And what’s camping without a campfire. You could pitch a tent in the backyard. But who wants to sleep outside in this heat.
So instead of doing some actual camping, today we will do some spiritual camping. Paul in this portion of 2 Corinthians compares our life on earth to camping, living in a tent. Only the tent he’s talking about is our earthly body. So as we listen to St Paul, we will learn
WHAT TO REMEMBER WHILE WE’RE CAMPING
I. The first thing Paul mentions is that we will groan in our earthly tent. In fact, he says it twice.
“While we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened.” He’s telling us that our earthly life in the tent of our human body is not going to be easy. We know that. Our earthly tent is imperfect thanks to the ravages of sin. And this earthly tent is temporary. It is only good for this life.
Why do we groan? Because we are sinful people. Too often, you and I are our own worst enemies. Even as believers, we don’t fight against our sinful nature as strongly as we should. It’s a struggle. Paul knew that struggle: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” All too often you and I show how frail we are. We do and say and think things that we know are wrong. And when that happens, we groan in regret and in frustration.
Why else do we groan? We are surrounded by other sinful people. Look to your left, look to your right – all you will see is sinners. You and I can’t control someone else’s words and actions. And so, there are times when another person’s words and actions hurt us, emotionally and physically.
Yet, there on the horizon, riding the white stallion, is our rescuer. Our Lord Jesus holds out the hope of heaven to us. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Our death puts an end to the tent of our earthly body. Then, in the resurrection, we get our permanent dwelling place, our resurrection body. As Paul says, “We long to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.”
The picture Paul draws here we understand. We have all seen the pictures of a sinkhole swallowing up a house. Keep that in mind as Paul speaks, “What is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” Can you picture that? Your mortal body will be swallowed by the eternal dwelling of heaven.
How do we know this is going to happen? We know because “God has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” When the Spirit comes into our lives, it is like what you do when you buy a house. You put down a down-payment, a guarantee that you are committed to making the purchase. The Lord gives us the Holy Spirit to guarantee that he will carry us through this season of camping. He will bring us to our permanent dwelling in heaven.
How does the Holy Spirit do all this? He works through the Word of God. He shows us our sins, all the things we have done wrong that could keep us from our permanent dwelling in heaven. Then he shows us all that Jesus has done in his life and in his death to give us that permanent dwelling in heaven. By this good news the Spirit assures us of the forgiveness of our sins, and shows us what a rosy future is ahead of us.
Then the Holy Spirit, having brought us to faith in Jesus, works full-time to keep us on track to eternal life. When we are being our own worst enemies, he leads us to repent of our sins, and he renews our faith through Word and Sacrament. He gets us back on track. The Holy Spirit is the down payment on the glory that is coming for every person who is camping in faith.
II. For that reason, you and I can be confident campers.
Paul says, “We live by faith, not by sight.” What is this faith? In Hebrews it says: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Through faith we can see spiritually what we can’t yet see physically. We see all that God is preparing for us. That’s why we can be confident.
As believers, we have a preference. “We are confident and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Our preference is to be done with camping, with living in the tent of our body. Oh, there is nothing wrong with having a body. It is a gift from God . Like Paul, we long for our eternal dwelling - our life in heaven. When we get there, we will live by sight, not by faith. We will see the glory of God.
But we are not there yet, we are still camping in the tent of our body. So our present reality is that you and I have to live by faith. We live by faith in our Savior Jesus Christ and all he has done for us. We live by faith in the Word of God – it is our guide through life and the source of our inspiration. We live by faith in the heavenly Father, who keeps his promises to us and blesses us.
So while we wait for our faith to become sight, we can work on our ambitions. All of us have ambitions. Maybe we want to be better students than we were last year. Or maybe our ambition is to get a new career with a higher paying job. Or maybe our ambition is to take a vacation to an exotic island. All that is good — it means we are trying to develop our God-given talents.
But out greatest ambition as believers in Jesus Christ is this: “So we make it our goal to please him whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” While we are camping in our earthly tent, we want to please our Lord. That means living according to his will and his Word.
Do we always do that? Or do you and I have the tendency to please ourselves, or to try to please the people around us? Our sinful nature tells us to please ourselves. That leads us to be selfish, to waste lots of money on pampering ourselves. It may cause us to use our bodies in a sinful way that might feel good for a moment but which is wrong before God. That might cause us to act foolishly in order to try to impress someone, please someone.
If those behaviors are not according to God’s Word, then we have not met our goal of pleasing God. We’ve all fallen into the trap of being pleasers of ourselves, or pleasers of people, rather than pleasing God. So what do you do? Confess and repent of your sins. Get your priorities in order, so that as we interact with people we will remember to please the Lord first. The Holy Spirit is God’s deposit to help you on that path.
We are confident campers on earth. And in our confidence, we are ready to be at home with our Lord. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” We know what happens on that day. We must face the judgment seat of Christ.
Daniel explains the situation: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” This will be decided on the basis of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, or the lack of it.
We know what the reward will be. Those who have lived their lives only to please themselves will receive an unpleasant reward. It is known as eternal separation from the blessings of God.
Those who have lived their lives in faith, desiring to please God out of love for our Savior Jesus Christ, will receive a pleasant reward. God the Father will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We will be ushered into our Father’s happy home of heaven. No longer will we be camping in the tent of this earthly body. Then we will be clothed with our permanent dwelling in God’s glory.
Knowing all of this, we will be confident campers. We will make it our ambition to please the Lord. And when we fail we will confidently throw ourselves on his mercy, trusting in his forgiveness, and striving to do better with the help of the Holy Spirit. Yes, as campers for Christ, we will groan from time to time. But we will also rejoice in the promises of God. We live by faith. Amen.